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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Record Breaking Leap

We have all heard of dare devils jumping off of bridges, buildings, cliffs, and anything else tall enough to allow a parachute to be deployed.  Those crazy enough have even strapped on a type of flying suit and soared amazingly close to cliff faces, trees, the ground; all in an attempt to get their adrenaline rushing and to do what no man has done before.  Well, there is a record that has been held for 52 years without being broken and if all goes well today, it will be broken.  What is the record you ask?  The record is for the highest jump or longest free fall, whichever you decide you like better.  The last record was set in 1960 by Joe Kittinger, a retired air force colonel, who jumped out of a capsule 19 miles above the face of the earth and landed successfully with a parachute.  His jump was not without perils, though, and neither will this one be.  Anything could potentially go wrong from the special pressurized suit depressurizing, to spinning out of control as Mr. Kittinger did, to the balloon carrying the capsule deflating prematurely.  Put simply, this jump is not for the faint of heart.  The record that will hopefully be set today will be a jump from 22 miles above a New Mexico desert.  In addition to an old record being broken, a new record will be set.  That new record is for a human being breaking the sound barrier and going super sonic at over 700 miles per hour.  To me, that is absolutely insane.  No one person has ever broken the sound barrier without an aircraft surrounding them and even scientists will admit that they have no clue what could happen to this man's body in the process of going from subsonic to super sonic.  Oh, and by the way, this man's name is Felix Baumgartner.  (Article about jump here.)

Felix has gone through extensive training for the last five years in order to make this jump a reality.  Already a dare devil, nothing could quite prepare him for this leap.  According the article that I read this morning detailing his training and the feat he will hopefully accomplish today, his biggest obstacle has been his claustrophobia.  Its the pressurized suit that he has to wear all the way up and consequently all the way down that is inducing this fear.  However, he has been working with the previous record holder Joe Kittinger to work through this fear and overcome it.  Mr. Kittinger is amazed that Felix has been able to overcome, or at least work through, his claustrophobia.  Hopefully all goes well for Felix and by the end of today he will be a record holder and setter.  As for myself, I don't know if I could ever jump out of a capsule 22 miles above the earth and free fall for over 5 minutes.  Its not that I am afraid of heights, rather I am quite fond of heights.  I don't even think it would be the potential claustrophobia that would get to me as I have been in super tight spaces in caves and have not been freaked out.  So I guess I don't know what would stop me except for the thought that if anything did go wrong, I probably wouldn't live through it.  That, I think, would be the thought that would stop me from going through with something like this.  After all, I have a wife and son, never mind parents and other relatives, but mostly a wife and son.  But that is neither here nor there as I am not the one who will be jumping or setting any records. 

These articles about dare devils breaking records always catch my attention for some reason.  Perhaps it is the aspect of humans pushing the limits that draws my attention in.  Or maybe it is the fact that I can see a part of myself doing some of these feats that makes me read about them.  I don't really know, but all other articles fade away when my eye catches one like the 22 mile jump happening today.  I have never jumped out of a plane, gone bungee jumping, base jumping, or anything involving a parachute.  Its not that I don't have an interest in it, which I do, I have just never had the opportunity to partake in any type of jump.  I guess what would be more my style, if I even have one when it comes to dare deviling, would be spelunking, or cave exploring.  Caves, as well as heights, have always fascinated me.  Whenever I have visited a cave, I always want to go farther than they officially let you go.  I want to go crawling through the tight spaces to see what is on the other side, to go where few men or women have gone before.  I don't want to do these things so that I can boast, I just want to do them because they interest me.  Yet, even though my interest lies underground or high up in the air, I have done very little spelunking on my own and obviously no jumping.  There is still time left for me though.  For today, though, I will live vicariously through Felix and try to imagine what it is like to jump out of a capsule and plummet 22 miles back down to earth.  Amazing!

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